Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fifty Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!!!!

Humans love speed. We live off of adrenaline, going fast, and getting to our destinations faster. And the only thing we like better than speed is MORE speed.

Think about it. A hundred years ago, when the Model T arrived on the scene, the top speed was 40 mph, which today are speeds which only really happen in places like your garage. And it's not just cars either. Everything's faster these days.

We have planes that can go faster and fly higher than they could 100 years ago. And safer too.

Think about the internet 10 years ago. If you were lucky, you had dial-up, which was frustratingly slow. I remember in 1998 an AOL Instant Message conversation I had with my cousin Billy. He was in Fresno while I was in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was approximately 3 minutes lagtime between when we'd send out our messages to when we'd receive them, which really raised my thoughts on the "Instant" aspect of the messaging. Now we've got cable, dsl, and, if you're lucky, fiber optics commercially available for the average internet user. Fiber Optics, people! Those are unspeakably fast internet connections that 10 years ago were only available to, well, let's face it, either government or major corporations.

Take a look at your cell phone for another example. Early cell phones were the size of a brick and had about the same signal reception. Today, I have a Samsung Propel which fits comfortably in a shirt pocket. And, get this, it get's 3G internet, which I can, get this, get Instant Messaging on. Right now, I could get on my cell phone and talk, in real time, with a friend in Denmark.

All this wouldn't be possible if people didn't want to go faster.

So why can't we in cars?

Currently, my commute takes me through one of the prettiest stretches of road in California: rte 680 N, between Sunol (town motto: "Don't blink or you'll miss us!") and Pleasanton. This is a superb stretch of road. There are a good number of gently banking turns, straights, and the ability to really wind it out. Also, there's a magnificent view of the Pleasanton valley, with little homes nestled against the foothills, and Mt Diablo in the distance. And if you don't like the 680, there's a surface road that runs parallel which is almost as good, if not better.

Recently, however, California has done something that is, and I'll be generous here, monumentally stupid and poorly thought out.

What they have done is lowered the speed limit to 55 mph. Ostensibly, this is done to protect the road workers who are repaving the street, as well as those motorists who cannot cope with the excitement of doing 65 mph and crash their cars into the sides of those magnificent hills.

However, the mind boggling thing is that they've only done this for the southbound traffic. The north-bound lanes are still able to do 65 mph. I cannot begin to fathom why they have done this.

And neither can anybody else. As far as I can tell, the average motorist seems to have ignored the changed speed limit and is quite content to handle the road at the speed God intended: approximately 70 mph, with Sammy Hagar's I Can't Drive 55! blasting at 152,345,751 decibels.

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